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Report accuses BBC of ‘institutional alarmism’ on climate change

Britain’s national broadcaster has been accused of “institutional alarmism” over its coverage regarding weather-related news and climate change – and it has been forced to correct up to a ‘dozen false claims’, a report claims.

The report comes from watchdog Net Zero Watch – an organisation which vows to “scrutinise policies, establish what they really cost, determine who will have to pay, and explore affordable alternatives”. 

According to climate researcher Paul Homewood, who compiled the study, it lays bare the BBC’s “persistent exaggeration” and “false information” regarding climate and weather-related news. It also revealed that the BBC has been forced to correct up to “a dozen” false claims, along with other items of fake news, in its climate-related coverage following complaints from the public in recent years.

Moreover, the report – which has been submitted to the Government’s upcoming Mid-Term Review of the broadcaster – claims that it has become “common practice” for BBC reporters to publicise “exaggerated and often misleading” weather-and-climate-related stories in order to “hype up” the potential risks posed by global warming.

In a press release, Net Zero Watch claimed that their new report revealed a “long list of climate misinformation”.

Net Zero director Benny Peiser said: “Persistent misrepresentation by BBC journalists in climate news coverage is fuelling the corporation’s institutional alarmism.

“Institutional alarmism is a form of hyped and exaggerated news reporting that is deeply embedded in the BBC. It manifests itself as unbalanced, one-sided coverage of climate risks that are habitually exaggerated and that go uncorrected by the BBC’s in-house fact checkers”.

Critics of the BBC’s approach to covering climate and weather-related news say that the broadcaster’s absence of opposing views means it is now actively promoting a ‘green ideological view’ of the world.

The report claims that it has become normalised for BBC reports on climate change and energy policy to “exclude or marginalise anybody who does not agree with the consensus view, while giving undue prominence to extreme green activist groups, such as Greenpeace and WWF.”

The report cited complaints upheld by the BBC against the broadcaster’s climate editor, Justin Rowlatt. Rowlatt told viewers in an episode of Panorama that: “The world is getting warmer and our weather is getting ever more unpredictable and dangerous. The death toll is rising around the world, and the forecast is that worse is to come”.

The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) found that Rowlatt had been ‘misleading’. In the same programme, Rowlatt proceeded to outline a selection of bad weather events in 2021, and referred to the recent drought in Madagascar as “the world’s first climate change-induced famine”. 

However, shortly after the programme aired, a scientific study suggested that the famine was not linked to climate change, and that Madagascar had seen worse droughts in the past. The report highlights how the ECU upheld another complaint against this segment of the programme.

The comprehensive report blasting the BBC’s ‘biased’ coverage cited other examples of complaints made relating to BBC reporting:

In October 2020, the National Farmers‘ Union complained about a BBC documentary, Meat: A Threat to our Planet. The programme made “several unsubstantiated claims about meat production in the UK”, and OFCOM upheld the complaint.

In June 2020, BBC Radio 4’s Today programme claimed that 2020 saw the hottest May on record in the UK, when it was only the 15th warmest.

In February 2019, Roger Harrabin covered an think-tank report, which made the claim that: ‘Since 2005, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wild- fires seven-fold.’ The think tank accepted that their claims were “factually untrue” and should have been challenged.

In December 2018, an episode of the BBC Weather World programme claimed that ‘Already about 30% of the UK’s power is produced by wind energy’ when the actual figure was 15%.

In October 2018, BBC News reported that the African penguin population was rapidly declining because of ‘rising tides’. The ECU afterwards acknowledged that this was a false claim, and that the real cause of the decline was over- fishing.

Homewood described the cases documented in the report as “the tip of the iceberg”, adding that “any other such inaccurate news or false information are broadcast by the BBC without being noticed or complained about.”

He also ventured that the BBC regularly dismiss complaints with “spurious replies” which leads some complainants to relent. In conclusion, Homewood claimed that bias is now ‘endemic’ in the BBC’s climate reporting. 

In the Irish establishment media, much attention has also been devoted to reporting on the ‘climate crisis’. Irish national broadcaster RTÉ appears to go a step further than the BBC through its membership of left-wing activist group Covering Climate Now (CCN). It is the only state broadcaster listed as a member of the organisation; the BBC, on the other hand, is not mentioned on the organisation’s partner page, as reported by Gript’s Ben Scallan this week.

CCN aims to “transform” the media and they offer training to journalists on how to “accurately” and “effectively” report on climate change. CCN has long advocated that all extreme weather events be linked to climate change, despite the fact it’s impossible for a reporter to prove a link between any particular weather event and climate change.

Last summer, RTÉ apologised for its reporting on climate change – with Managing Director of RTÉ News, Jon Williams saying that the broadcaster was wrong not to more strongly link extreme weather with climate change.

Following that, Williams promised that RTÉ would “double down” on its coverage surrounding climate issues, and said that “every journalist in RTÉ News” was to take part in a workshop exploring how to report on “climate science”, allocating a team of reporters “dedicated to reporting the climate crisis”.

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